Address to the National Press Club
Oodgeroo Noonuckle put it simply, but beautifully.
“This land was ours, you may recall
Before you came along at all”.
In celebrating the elders of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, I pay my respects to any First Nations people here today.
I also want to take a moment to specifically acknowledge the people of the Torres Strait.
The people of the Torres Strait can’t simply be a pro forma addendum to the acknowledgement that we make to First Nations peoples.
As Australia under the new Government rightly focusses on the devastating impacts of climate change on our Pacific neighbours.
We cannot forget that we have Australian citizens in the Torres Strait who are living with the impacts of climate change right now.
We can’t forget it and under this Government, we won’t forget it.
When I leave the National Press Club this afternoon, I’m heading straight to the Torres Strait to talk with elders and owners about the impacts of climate change on them.
I’m delighted I’ll be joined by my colleagues, Senator Jana Stewart and Senator Nita Green –
And by the Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Jenny McAllister, whom I have asked to take carriage of climate adaptation.
Jenny is also joining us here in the room today.
Well, it’s tempting to say that May 21 saw the winds of change blow through our country.
But in fact, a gale blew away nine years of climate denial, delay and dysfunction.
After years of climate change policy being weaponised by conservatives, after years of baseless fear campaigns about the cost of climate action –
There was a climate election, and that election resulted in a Labor victory with an ambitious climate agenda.
Of course, real victory on climate will only come with achievement in government, with progress in policy and with a focus on delivery.
And today, I’m going to focus on Labor’s approach in government to delivery and achievement in climate.
Now of course, I’ve had a busy first few weeks as Climate and Energy Minister.
I’ll say a bit about this at the outset.
We’ve seen, in dramatic form in the last few weeks, the real-life results of nearly a decade of denial, delay and dysfunction when it comes to energy policy.
This really has been a Taylor-made crisis.
Nine years of stop-start policy making.
An attempt to abolish and then water down the Renewable Energy Target.
An attempt to abolish and then constantly undermine both the CEFC and ARENA.
An aborted Clean Energy Target.
A discarded National Energy Guarantee.
The demonising of renewables.
The disparagement of storage as being “as effective as the big prawn”.
Campaigns of denigration against companies and CEOs who dared to argue for a well-managed transition to renewables.
The former Government’s signature energy investment, Snowy 2.0, is running 18 months late.
They knew this before the election, but of course hid this from the public - and from the market, which needs this information to make decisions about new generation investments.
In their final year in office they oversaw one of the biggest spike in emissions in 15 years – 4.1 million tonnes.
Good climate and energy policy is good economic policy – it doesn’t rely on recession and drought for short term and temporary emissions reduction.
They also knew that electricity prices were skyrocketing on their watch.
But they cynically decided to leave the increase in the default market offer for the new Government to announce.
Not just incompetent, but dishonest about it.
All this came at a cost to the country.
A dive in investment in renewable energy.
Not enough investment in storage, not enough investment in transmission.
And further uncertainty was created for the market through announcing their Underwriting New Generation Investments program, which hasn’t seen a single watt added to the market.
Lots of big announcements: but not one watt of generation funded or underwritten has been delivered by the previous government – despite all the spin.
This was the worst of both worlds. They managed to chill private sector investment and deliver none of their own.
Many more megawatts of generation removed from the system over the last decade than have been added.
Now we see the results.
And by their early actions, the now-Opposition are making themselves irrelevant.
No recognition or contrition for the cost of their errors.
More denigration of renewables by the new Leader of the Opposition.
A unilateral declaration by him that the Opposition will not support the Government’s Climate Change Bill, despite the benefits for business of enshrining certainty.
Bizarre and laughable claims that somehow the new Government even talking about renewable energy somehow spooked coal-fired power generators into not working.
And an economically illiterate attempt to argue that the answer to high power prices is to introduce the most expensive form of energy, which also takes many years to build: nuclear.
And so, the Opposition has chosen to count themselves out of a sensible discussion on the most pressing issue facing the country: climate change and energy.
I was interested to see if we could try and achieve some bipartisanship on one of the biggest transformations our economy has seen.
But if their contribution over the past month is anything to go by - they appear to have not received the memo the Australian people sent them on May 21 and have made themselves irrelevant.
And so, enough about them.
To the future.
The key to our approach in Government, and the key to Australia’s success, will be the same principles that underpinned our Powering Australia policy and our successful campaign.
- A focus on the economic opportunities for Australia of real, well-designed climate action and well-integrated industry and economic policy.
- Bringing Australians together, from the regions to the cities, from the renewables sector to traditional energy. An end to the toxic identity politics of division and a real effort to ensure the economic dividend of good climate policy is shared across the country.
- Working with business to unleash pent-up private investment in energy generation – which has been waiting for a Commonwealth Government that gets it and provides a sensible and stable policy framework.
- Working in partnership with other governments and all those that have a stake to drive this once in a century transformation.
- And a commitment to carefully designed, ambitious but achievable policies which ensure our approach is credible and substantive.
That approach marked our policy and election campaign.
And it will mark our tenure.
When the Prime Minister and I signed the letter notifying the UN of Australia’s new 43% emissions reduction target we invited representatives of:
- The business community AND the trade union movement.
- Big energy generators AND big energy users.
- Manufacturers AND climate groups.
We did that to underline the fact that we really are all in this together.
That it really is time for the climate wars to end.
And this approach will continue.
Today, I’m outlining the next steps in implementing the Government’s climate agenda.
When Parliament resumes in late July we will be introducing two pieces of legislation which will progress the agenda for which we received a mandate on May 21.
Firstly, the Treasurer and I will take through legislation which implements our electric vehicle tax cut.
We promised to cut the tariffs and abolish fringe benefits tax on affordable EVs from 1 July this year and that’s exactly what we will do.
Of course, the Parliament doesn’t sit until late July, and so we will ask the Tax Office to make the tax cut retrospective, in accordance with usual procedure.
Of course, the EV tax cut is just one element of our EV policy.
We also promised the Driving the Nation plan of an EV fast charger once every 150 kilometres on the nation’s highways.
To convert the Commonwealth fleet to 75% no-emissions vehicles.
To create a national Hydrogen Highways refuelling network, to deliver stations on Australia's busiest freight routes.
And the development of Australia’s first National Electric Vehicle Strategy.
We’ve already been working away on implementing each of these policies and made good headway.
I look forward to providing progress reports on each of them soon.
Secondly, I will introduce into the House, in the first week of sittings, the Albanese Government’s Climate Change Bill.
We’ve been crystal clear, in Opposition and in Government: we regard enshrining the nation’s emissions reductions targets in legislation as best practice.
It helps provide the policy certainty and stability that the investor community in particular craves.
And today I’m announcing the shape of the Albanese Government’s Climate Change Bill.
It will be simple, yet powerful.
The Bill will have four essential elements.
Firstly, we will seek to enshrine in law our Nationally Determined Contribution of 43% emissions reduction by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050.
Secondly, we will explicitly task, in law, the Climate Change Authority to assess and publish progress against these targets and advise Government on future targets, including the 2035 target.
Thirdly, we will legislate a requirement for the Minister for Climate Change to report annually to Parliament on progress in meeting our targets.
I see this report as similar to the annual Closing the Gap statement: forcing the Government to be transparent about progress and plans, and frankly, obliging the Opposition of the day to share its views as well.
To focus the mind of parliamentarians on what the nation is doing to deal with this, our most pressing challenge.
And finally, as part of consequential legislation, we will insert the nation’s targets in the objectives and functions of a range of government agencies including: ARENA, CEFC, Infrastructure Australia and the NAIF.
This is what we will put to the Parliament.
Now I say publicly and transparently what I have also indicated privately to members of the cross bench.
If they have ideas, suggestions or amendments which are complementary to the Government’s agenda, which are sensible additions to our plan, then I am happy to consider them in good faith.
I say this in a spirit of co-operation. If there is a good idea which improves, not undermines the bill, I’m happy to hear it and work with it.
But we won’t be entertaining amendments which are not consistent with our agenda or our mandate.
And, just as we have been crystal clear that we regard legislation as being best practice –
We have also been clear that the legislation is not required and, if the Parliament doesn’t wish to pass it, we will simply get on with the job, as we have already started to do.
Now of course, there is much in our policy agenda that does not need legislation at all.
High on our list of priorities is the much-needed upgrade to our nation’s transmission system.
Our grid is not fit for purpose and our Rewiring the Nation program will make it so.
Rewiring the Nation will help us get renewable energy from where it’s created to where it’s consumed.
This will include, increasingly under our Government, offshore wind.
And it will help us manage the electricity system as we massively lift the renewable share of generation.
The wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine … everywhere.
But across our country, it is normally blowing or shining somewhere when we need it –
And improved transmission will help us get that renewable energy where we need it.
Now we are fortunate that as we embark on Rewiring the Nation, we have a blueprint ready to go.
In fact, tomorrow AEMO will release the 2022 Integrated System Plan.
The ISP shows our energy mix continuing to change dramatically, predicting the Step Change scenario as the ‘most likely’.
The prediction of this rate of change is informed not just by the impressive expertise within AEMO, but by consultation with over 1,500 stakeholders including energy users and providers, governments, regulators and analysts.
The sector has been honest about the pace of change in the market.
But the previous government was not – which has left us playing catch-up in the build-out of new generation.
The pace of change that we are already experiencing represents a massive need for new investment in flexible and firm capacity, to complement renewables.
That is the focus of the capacity mechanism I am working with my state and territory counterparts to deliver: ensuring the market is sending the right signal for the capacity and reliability we need as Australia’s unprecedented energy transformation proceeds.
Let me be very clear, the capacity mechanism our Government delivers, in partnership with states and territories, will be utterly consistent with our emissions reduction goals, and will encourage the use of new technologies and renewables.
The ISP lays out the scale of this over 30 years – electricity demand to nearly double across the grid, storage capacity to increase by a factor of 30, and we already know well the task in transmission.
Billions in job-creating investment to connect Australian households and industry to affordable, firmed renewables.
Tomorrow’s ISP will set out the timelines for delivery of major pieces of transmission infrastructure.
It will set the dates for critical projects like Marinus Link that will connect Tasmania’s hydro to the mainland with new undersea cables.
And Hume Link and the second interconnector between Victoria and New South Wales that will allow electricity from renewable and dispatchable sources to flow from where it is generated to where it is needed in our homes and industries.
Let me say this is a world-class document. It is a roadmap for the transmission revolution the country needs.
And so I welcome the final 2022 ISP being released tomorrow.
The only problem with the ISP has been that it wasn’t properly funded.
Under previous arrangements, it would have taken too long to implement this good plan.
Rewiring the Nation will fix that. Guided by AEMO, the CEFC and my Department, Rewiring the Nation will enable the new Government to get on with the job and implement the ISP.
I look forward to working with my fellow Energy Ministers to modernise the grid, implement the ISP and provide the country with more renewables, more transmission and more storage.
Important as the ISP is, it is not enough. Not nearly.
The ISP only covers electricity transmission.
But our transformation needs to be about much more than transmission.
We need an integrated national plan which covers all the investments needed to move to a renewable economy.
This plan needs to cover what storage we need and where.
It needs to cover what green hydrogen we need and what pipelines we need to get it around the country.
It needs to cover all the necessary investment.
And it needs to cover the vital enablers to that program, like upskilling our workforce and making things in Australia again.
I was delighted when state and territory ministers – Labor, Liberal and Green – unanimously agreed to work with me on exactly this plan at our recent meeting.
I’ve described it as an ISP on steroids.
The best time to start working on it was ten years ago. The second best time is now. And that’s exactly what we are doing.
And so, this vital work begins in this important national project.
2030 is actually not far away.
This is the most dramatic economic transformation our nation has faced in our modern era.
And we have eight years, just over 90 months to do it.
That means we have to be all in.
And we are.
The Federal Government is.
The states and territories have, all of them, expressed a real desire to work with us in the national interest.
Business is in. The unions are in. The country is in.
And we’re re-joining the global pack.
While the rest of the world has ratcheted up their ambition, previous Government policy left us a laggard.
And that’s had ramifications for our economic and strategic interests.
Climate change and emissions reduction is, of course, a global problem, and we need to pull together with our international partners to solve it.
We will act in recognition that climate change is a primary economic and security challenge for our region – and an existential threat to the island countries of the Pacific.
But climate change is not just a threat – it is an economic opportunity, for Australia and for our partners.
By 2030, our ambition is to be exporting clean energy, critical minerals, batteries and components, as well as clean steel and aluminium – commodities produced by a thriving Australian economy, driven by the skills and innovation of Australians working in thousands of jobs in all our regions.
Hydrogen is a great example.
If we get this right, by 2030, Australia will be a major player in the global hydrogen industry.
We’ll be using our natural resources, including solar, onshore and offshore wind, to generate export quantities of hydrogen, and providing for its use domestically.
We will use hydrogen to progressively decarbonise existing industries, heavy transport links and for chemical production.
And we won’t just be powering Australia with renewable energy – we will be powering the world.
The world – and our fast growing region - needs clean energy in vast quantities.
And Australia’s regions know energy exports.
Under the Albanese Government - Australia’s regions will be at the heart of this change and opportunity, not a footnote to it.
Exporting clean energy, energy intensive industrial products like green steel and aluminium, and other products like solar cells, electrolysers and batteries - will help power the clean energy economies of our region, strengthening supply chains and bolstering energy security.
So being a good global citizen is not separate to our national economic interest. It’s key to it.
The world’s climate emergency is Australia’s jobs opportunity.
We have already moved quickly to demonstrate to international partners that we are here to help, and to lead.
I have already held discussions with the US Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm and President Biden’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, John Kerry as well as UK COP26 President Alok Sharma.
The reception to the Albanese Government’s approach has been warm, with a shared excitement about the opportunities for strengthening economic ties with these key partners in the global transformation underway.
I look forward to continuing these conversations at the Sydney Energy Forum next month.
I had the pleasure of meeting the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands in Sydney recently to discuss the climate crisis, and look forward to welcoming Cedric Schuster, Samoa’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment to the Sydney Energy Forum.
This marks the start of a genuine partnership with our Pacific family to achieve an ambitious international response to climate change - including talking with them about jointly hosting a future UNFCCC Conference of the Parties meeting.
Climate change has been a focus of the Foreign Minister’s engagement with the Pacific since the election, and of the Prime Minister’s remarks to his counterparts at the leaders’ meetings of the Quad and the Major Economies Forum.
The Government will increase support to partners in our region as they work to address climate change, including with new finance.
As we begin on this important project, both abroad and at home, I reckon it’s appropriate to ask: what will success look like in that short time to 2030?
By 2030, if we are successful, our emissions will be at least 43% lower than 2005 levels. That’s more than 130 million tonnes lower than they are now.
By 2030, we’ll still be exporting energy and employing thousands of Australians as we do so: but we’ll be exporting renewable energy via submarine cables and green hydrogen.
A renewable energy superpower won’t be a concept: it’ll be a reality.
By 2030 we will be genuine partners with the Pacific in ambitious action on climate change.
We will have improved our trade and diplomatic ties on this shared challenge and opportunity.
By 2030, more than 82% of the electricity we consume will be generated by renewable energy.
Renewables and storage will dominate our electricity supply, connected to households and industry through new transmission supported by our Rewiring the Nation policy.
By 2030, the Australian Government itself will be net zero.
By 2030, our National Battery Strategy will have ensured we are a serious player in global supply chains -
Not just supplying lithium and other critical minerals, but making components and batteries here and employing thousands of people as we do so.
By 2030, our National EV Strategy will mean we have caught up, and affordable electric and hydrogen vehicles are a realistic choice for Australian families.
All this achievable. Ambitious, but achievable.
We will succeed.
Now that we have a Government that gets it.
And is determined to get on with it.
We’ve wasted a decade.
Now we have not a second to waste.
And nor do we intend to.
Time to get on with it.